An antibody (also known as immunoglobulin) is a substance produced by the immune system that identifies and attacts strange substances. There are five types of immunoglobulins: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG and IgM.
What is an antisperm antibody?
IgA and IgG sperm antibodies will bind to the sperm. That will affect their motility, preventing the spermatozoa from reaching the uterus and fallopian tubes. Antibodies can be found in the sperm, seminal plasma and cervical mucus.
Sperm are powerful antigens, and had they not been covered by the blood-testis barrier, they would be tagged as strange bodies by the immune system. Besides, female’s immune system may also recognise sperm as potentially harmful agents. These are the situations that may damage the blood-testis barrier:
Not many women produce antisperm antibodies, nonetheless, there are also risk factors for the formation of these antibodies:
- Gynecologic infections.
- Genital tract inflammations.
Some techniques are useful in the detection of antisperm antibodies in biological serum:
- SpermMar test: imnmunoglobulin A (IgA) detection. It is significative when the result is greater than 10%.
- Immunobeads: covers IgG, IgM and Ig A .It is signifcative when the value is greater than 20%.
- ELISA or radioimmunassay: to detect the presence of circulant antibodies.
Treatment for sperm antibodies and fertility
The presence of antibodies is the main cause of immunological sterility.
There is no specific treatment for sperm antibodies, however, high doses of corticosteroids may reduce the number of antibodies. Fertility is enhaced, but only temporarily. High-dose corticosteroid treatments have undesired side effects.
Couples with this fertility problem should resort to assisted reproduction techniques in order to achieve pregnancy. Seminal lavage prior to undertaking an artificial insemination or an in vitro fertilisation optimises the fertilisation process.